By 2020, there will hardly be any Tencent-free industry (whether there will be an Alibaba-free industry is also doubtful). Staying true to its principle to improve users’ lives through the means of digitization and technology, as Meng Zhang, General Manager of Tencent Medical, said, the company, aside from building the future of retail, propelling digital applications in the area of health and medical services, is now taking aim at the world of voice commerce. WeChat is already a commercial powerhouse with close to 1 billion people loyally using it for all sorts of arrangements. The next step seems clear in the age of convenience – voice-based user interface.
Conversational systems will define the future of commerce, and the only chance to win is to build them on existing goldmines of continuously generated user activity data across a diverse ecosystem. The largest social and e-commerce platforms have that unfair advantage that sooner or later will redefine an unexpectedly broad specter of industries.
Pick #1. Tencent to Launch Its Own Smart Speaker, Enabling WeChat by Voice Command
Tencent is to launch its own smart speaker that offers functionality from the Tencent family such as sending WeChat messages via voice commands and – unlike all the other smart speakers on the market – contains a battery and so is fully portable. The app is already up on Apple’s App Store.
The Tingting (听听, “listen”) speaker is the first AI smart home product released by the Tencent Smart Innovation unit. One of its best features is its integration with Tencent’s ecosystem.
Pick #2. Mobile Money Interoperability Goes Live in Kenya
Safaricom and Airtel Kenya rolled out mobile money interoperability across the country, with Telkom Kenya also making preparations to join the scheme. Customers of Airtel Money and Safaricom’s m-Pesa will be able to seamlessly transfer funds between the two services for a much lower cost than was previously the case.
Kenya is the 15th country around the world to introduce service interoperability for mobile money services.
Pick #3. European Countries Join Blockchain Partnership
A total of 22 European countries signed a Declaration on the establishment of a European Blockchain Partnership – a vehicle for cooperation amongst Member States to exchange experience and expertise in technical and regulatory fields and prepare for the launch of EU-wide blockchain applications across the Digital Single Market for the benefit of the public and private sectors.
“In the future, all public services will use blockchain technology. Blockchain is a great opportunity for Europe and Member States to rethink their information systems, to promote user trust & the protection of personal data, to help create new business opportunities, and to establish new areas of leadership, benefiting citizens, public services & companies. The Partnership launched today enables Member States to work together with the European Commission to turn the enormous potential of blockchain technology into better services for citizens.” – Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for Digital Economy & Society
The European Commission also launched the EU Blockchain Observatory and Forum in February 2018 and has already invested more than €80 million in projects supporting the use of blockchain in technical and societal areas. Around €300 million more are to be allocated to blockchain by 2020.
List of countries signatories of the Declaration: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the UK. Other countries, Members of the EU and of the European Economic Area are invited to join the European Blockchain Partnership.
Pick #4. Caribbean Nations Introduce Crypto Payments in the Travel Industry
The Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO) has reached an agreement with the Barbados-based blockchain company Bitt Inc. to facilitate “the implementation of more efficient payment processes for tourism products and services.”
An MoU has been signed in order to help foster broader economic participation in community-based tourism and related sectors through the use of cryptocurrencies. The partners intend to implement efficient and cost-effective digital payment products and services in the region’s most important industry.
Pick #5. Paytm Canada Launches the First Bill Pay Rewards Platform
Paytm Canada announced the launch of the first-of-its-kind, as the official press release states, rewards platform where consumers earn points and cash back through any method of payment. The Paytm mobile bill pay app offers Canadians an instant and cost-free mobile account to manage their bill payments at more than 5,000 billers through their smartphones and earn rewards and cashback offers for doing so.
Canadians can pay their bills with the Paytm app by using their bank account, debit card, some credit cards or via cash at over 6,000 Canada Post locations with no transaction fees.